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South in icy grip, as latest winter storm defies warming predictions

Promises of a warmer winter are not bearing fruit as new winter storm grips the South, bringing its largest city, Atlanta, to a full stop. Even the governor's inauguration event was canceled.

By Staff writer / January 10, 2011

Snow falls against the backdrop of the Georgia State Capitol the night before Gov.-elect Nathan Deal is to be sworn into office Sunday, Jan. 9, in Atlanta.

David Goldman/AP

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Atlanta

The South's largest city, Atlanta, turned into a frosty icicle Monday morning as yet another cold snap and winter storm undermined predictions that the region would see a warmer and wetter winter than usual.

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Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas all saw up to six inches of snow fall overnight Sunday, pushing America's warmer-weather creatures firmly inside, save excited sledders and snowman-builders. The storm also took a toll in Louisiana, where two people died in traffic accidents caused by icy conditions.

Metro Atlanta and its 5 million residents arguably took the brunt of the storm, as lack of snow-removal equipment left the vast majority of side streets overlaid with an ice sheet as deep and hard as a hockey rink. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines canceled 1,400 flights Monday, largely due to conditions at the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield Jackson International.

After many Southerners experienced the second unusually cold and snowy December in a row – including Atlanta's first white Christmas since 1882 – the warming trend predicted by long-range meteorologists at the National Weather Service has so far failed to appear. A regional high-pressure system over Greenland – the North Atlantic Oscillation, or "Greenland Block" – has thrown a wrench into traditional, and easier-to-predict, weather patterns.

The unusual winter conditions, especially in the South and parts of the mid-Atlantic, have renewed debates about manmade global warming, with many scientists saying the cold weather is proof of climate change and skeptics saying such global-warming hype has left many unprepared for one of the coldest and snowiest decades in 40 years.

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